Sen. Bob Casey believes any tax reform package should include incentives for investing in domestic manufacturing, life science innovation and renewable energy. And the Pennsylvania Democrat wants the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit - boosts for low and middle income Americans - maintained and made permanent.
These were the priorities Casey outlined in a letter he sent Friday evening to the Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana and ranking member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. The committee rank are taking a "blank-slate" approach to reforming the tax code - they want to wipe it clean, start from scratch and asked fellow senators to send letters by the end of last week on what policies and deductions to include in a shiny new tax code.
And they promised senators to keep their letters secret.
But Casey's suggestions, which he made public, underscored how difficult reforming the tax code will be, just as Baucus and his Republican counterpart in the House, Dave Camp, Michigan, travel to Pennsylvania Monday to sell tax reform. Democrats want to raise new revenue while Republicans have drawn a deep line in the sand over any new taxes.
"Lastly, tax reform must be viewed in the broader context of long-term budget sustainability," Casey said in closing his letter. "I implore the committee to lead in the effort to find a revenue-spending cut ratio that achieves a balanced solution to our long-term budgetary challenges."
Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey chose not to send a letter, but tax reform has been one of his priorities since becoming a senator. On the fiscal supercommittee - the group charged with deficit reduction that failed and set in motion the sequester - Toomey wrote the Republican plan that would have cut spending and raised revenues through certain cuts to tax loopholes and deductions. Some Republicans balked that Toomey offered a plan that wasn't completely revenue neutral.
UPDATED: Toomey's office released a statement about the Baucus and Camp visit to Philadelphia. A reformed tax code, he said, "should not be a cover for extracting even more of Americans’ hard-earned dollars."
Both parties and the White House are in agreement that the complicated tax code needs to be simplified, but that's just about where the agreement comes to a halting stop. With a huge partisan divide to close, Baucus and Camp are taking their pitch on the road, spending the summer traveling the country meeting with businesses and rallying public support for tax reform.
The bipartisan duo are visiting a small business in Philadelphia and another one across the river in Lawrenceville, New Jersey for the second day of their summer tax tour on Monday.
“The status quo, which is today’s tax code, isn’t working," Baucus and Camp said in a joint statement. "It is too complex and every dollar spent and hour consumed figuring out how to comply is time and money they can’t reinvest back into their business and their workers. We’re hitting the road so that we can hear from job creators and families alike about how we can move past the status quo and make the system fairer and easier to deal with for all Americans.”
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